DIY Multimedia Centre

While I’m not a die hard A/V nerd, I’m a fan of watching movies and a number of TV shows. Hence why I have a reasonably large, eclectic collection of DVDs. It was only a matter time before I would build myself a multimedia centre at home, but I’m being careful to keep it modular so I can adapt it to new technologies as they appear. Alas, I built it in stages, with a flat screen TV coming near the end. The following is an account of my current setup, in order of acquisition of each component.

When I was buying a DVD player a few years ago, I was careful to make sure it was future-proof. I’m very glad I chose to get a Pioneer DVD player, primarily because it is one of the higher end DVD players which can do 1080p upscaling quite well, and it’s relatively easy to make region-free with some IR codes and a laptop or a palm pilot.

Next came a computer; a 2007 vintage Intel Core 2 Duo Mac Mini to be precise. It does a fairly good job of driving the TV at 1080p, but with the help of a Toslink+DVI–>HDMI convertor. By and large, we run Boxee (a fork of XBMC, but with a more remote friendly UI in my opinion) and Apple’s Front Row on the Mac mini, as front ends to the media collection. I have grand plans to proxy specific traffic via the US so I can take advantage of Boxee’s additional features like Hulu, etc outside the US), but I perpetually keep meaning to find the time to do so.

The keystone of the system was my flat screen TV, bought mid 2009. After ~2 years of research and much anticipation, I finally decided upon the Panasonic 42" TX-P42V10 Neo-PDP Plasma TV. Why Plasma over LCD or LED? Plasma defaults to black unlike LCD, so it’s better for movies over gaming. As for LED, it was too new (ie unproven) and relatively expensive. Panasonic’s Neo-PDP was ultimately alluring since it lacks many of the legacy burn-in problems plasma has been plagues with over the years, not to mention being ultra thin (the TX-P42V10 is 50mm thick!) and low power* (power consumption is ~300W when on , <5W in standby). If that wasn’t enough, the TX-P42V10 has an ethernet port (it’s awesome being able to ping my TV to double check if it’s left on!), so it can talk to YouTube, flickr, etc. I also find it entertaining that deep within the TV menu the “system license” option prints the GNU License onscreen.

The glue that keeps everything together is a single remote control, the Logitech Harmony 885 controls everything (even Mac OSX on the Mac Mini via Remote Buddy) flawlessly.

In time to come, I fully expect to swap out the Mac Mini + DVI–>HDMI convertor to the 2010 Mac Mini with native HDMI output, as well as a Logitech Sqeezebox system to stop requiring the TV to be on to just to play music, as well as having a proper surround sound speaker set, once I find a wireless or semi-wireless surround sound set to adapt to my partially wired living room setup.

All in all, this media nerd is very happy. 🙂

* I’m a power conscious nerd who loves numbers, but that’s worthy of another (planned) blog post at a later date.

3 thoughts on “DIY Multimedia Centre

  1. I love that the reviews on the Amazon page for the remote emphasise that the helpdesk and email support are so good, we’re truly living in the future when this is a selling point of a piece of mass-market leisure electronics.

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